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45th Nike Prefontaine Classic Shines Bright In California Sun


Stanford, California --  Sunny skies, a beautiful California day with a sellout crowd of 8,128 set the stage at Stanford for the 45th Nike Prefontaine Classic on Sunday afternoon.

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Rai Benjamin went out evenly with Kyron McMaster to his outside before starting to move ahead into the final turn, hitting the gas pedal in the stretch to pull away from the field and win by almost two seconds in a world-leading 47.16, the eighth fastest time ever and the fifth fastest ever by an American.

Gusty winds put paid to chances of improving on the 43.45 he ran at Mt. SAC in April, but Michael Norman dominated the Michelob Ultra Men's 400 meters with a 44.62 that gave him a half-second gap ahead of NCAA champ Kahmari Montgomery. Fred Kerley, winner of the Shanghai DL one-lapper, was third in 45.33.

Despite a fall after the midway point of the women’s 3,000m steeplechase, reigning world champion Emma Coburn recovered and closed the gap on Beatrice Chepkoech, who won in a world-leading 8:55.58, with Coburn clocking the fourth-fastest time ever by an American with a 9:04.90 in second. Chepkoech’s time was the fifth fastest ever run and set a U.S. all-comers record.

All eyes were on reigning Olympic champ Ryan Crouser and world champ Tom Walsh in the men’s shot put, but Brazil’s Darlan Romani spoiled the party with a series of huge personal bests, topped by a 22.61m/74-2.25 in the fifth round that elevated him to No. 10 on the world all-time list. Crouser’s opening-round toss of 22.17m/72-9 held up for second, and Walsh settled for third at 21.76m/71-4.75 as the top six men had throws better than 70 feet.

Shoulder to shoulder with Justin Gatlin through 40m in the Xfinity Men's 100 meters, world indoor 60m record holder Christian Coleman zipped away though the final half to win in a world-leading 9.81, the fastest time ever run at Stanford. Gatlin, 37, held on to second in 9.87, his fastest time since winning the Olympic Trials in 2016.

2016 World Indoor high jump champion Vashti Cunningham challenged world leader Mariya Lasitskene of Russia through 2.00m/6-6.75, which she cleared on her first attempt to become only the ninth U.S. woman to ever clear that height. She went out at 2.02m/6-7.5 as Lasitskene scaled 2.04m/6-8.25 to win.

Olympic 5,000m silver medalist Paul Chelimo ran near the front of the pack in the men’s two miles, keeping pace with Joshua Cheptegei and Selemon Barega, but those two started to edge away from him with just over a lap to go. Chelimo wasn’t done yet, though, and unleashed a vicious kick over the last half-lap to almost run Cheptegei down at the line, finishing just .05 behind in 8:07.59. Chelimo’s time makes him the No. 3 American ever and was just over half a second off the national record.

Reigning U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs was out quickest in the Xfinity Women's 100 meters, with a small margin over Marie-Josee Ta Lou, but Ta Lou powered through the final 30m and crossed the line first in 11.02, .02 ahead of Hobbs. NCAA fourth-placer Teahna Daniels was third in 11.13, and NCAA champ Sha’Carri Richardson fourth in 11.15 in her professional debut.

In the Progressive Women's 800 meters, South Africa’s Caster Semenya followed a very quick pacemaker through 400m in 56.42 and continued to move away from her challengers on the way to a 1:55.70 that broke her own U.S. all-comers record from this meet last year. Ajee’ Wilson was the best of the rest with a 1:58.36 season best in second, with Raevyn Rogers personal best (1:58.65) and Hanna Green (1:58.75 PR) also dipping under 1:59.

The Nike Women's 3,000m featured an all-star cast, but it was Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands who shone brightest with an 8:18.49 U.S. all-comers record that made her the fifth fastest woman ever and the fastest non-Chinese woman in outdoor history. Seven women finished under 8:30. Karissa Schweizer, the lone American in the field, clocked massive personal best of 8:42.15. Her previous best was 9:35.64 back in 2015.

World Championships silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot stayed just off the lead of the pacemakers through three laps of the Nike Bowerman Mile, and then took over the lead for good on the way to a 3:50.49 to win by more than a half-second over Ayanleh Souleiman. Norway’s Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen staved off a quick-finishing Craig Engles for the third and fourth spots, helping pull Engels to a big PR of 3:51.60, lopping more than three second off his previous outdoor best. Olympic 1,500m champ Matthew Centrowitz made his 2019 debut on the track with a solid 3:52.26 in sixth. The entre 14-man field crossed the line under the 4-minute mark.

Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare was a surprise winner of the Nike Women's 200 meters, slingshotting off the turn in lane eight to stop the clock at 22.05, turning back world leader Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, who was the runner-up in 22.21. Thompson last week ran a 22.00 to win her national championships.

In a thrilling finnish to the Chocolate Milk Women's 1500 meters, Faith Kipyegon and Laura Muir just barely held off a charging Shelby Houlian. Houlihan clocked a 60.54 final lap but it wasn’t enough as she placed third with a time of 3:59.64. Kate Grace and Danielle Jones both clocked personal bests of 4:02.99 and 4:07.28, respectively. 

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